Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More Stress: Wells Fargo Needs $15 Billion

Bloomberg reports that Wells Fargo will need to raise $15 billion in additional capital as a result of its stress test. If Wells is allowed to play the same accounting games as Citi and BoA, they can simply convert some of the $25 billion of preferred shares the government owns from the TARP to common shares and be done with meddlesome capital requirements. Of course, Wells Fargo may not want the government to be one of its biggest voting shareholders, if not the biggest, so actually issuing new common stock is not out of the question. And, of course, Wells Fargo plans on getting out from under its government shackles by earning its way back to solvency - soon! From Bloomberg:

Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said last week that Wells Fargo will pay back $25 billion to the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program and restore its dividend as soon as possible.

“We earn our way out,” Stumpf, said at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in San Francisco April 28. “This company has a great capacity to produce wonderful results. That will be the driving force.”

The stress tests were designed to incorporate potential earnings in their assessments of banks’ capital needs.

Translation: with all the direct and indirect government subsidies to banks, even the idiots who ran their firms aground cannot lose money. If new revenues equal losses on "legacy" assets - and there are still huge time bombs on banks' balance sheets like CRE loans- then the banks should not require too much more help. Whether banks can survive and thrive without government training wheels is entirely another question, though.

But forget those concerns. Happy days are back again - right? At the very least, maybe Warren Buffet's favorite banks should unveil a new slogan: Wells Fargo - Not As Crappy As Citi or BoA.

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